Gerald Duckworth and Co Ltd

Scope and Content

The collection, 1936-58, comprises general correspondence files containing letters dealing with a wide variety of matters that affected the publishing house. Many deal with the ephemeral day to day matters of Duckworth, such as the canvassing and selection of manuscripts, and the depression of the book trade as a result of the rise of Fascism, while other issues are broader responses to the politics of the time. The files contain considerable correspondence between the publisher and its authors although this is often of an ephemeral nature. Many of the firm's records were destroyed as a result of enemy action in 1942 and in a fire in 1953, meaning that there are no records of sales or any accounts of the firm, beyond some invoices and receipts from the 1950s. An earlier fire in 1929 destroyed many of the records of the firm, and the general correspondence occasionally makes reference to the firm's inability to consult their early correspondence in response to enquiries. A second deposit of files made in August 1998 (reference MS959B) contains files of press-cuttings and journal reviews, c1970s-80s, relating to books published by Duckworth as well as 'Author Files' and papers of former Managing Director, Colin Haycraft.

Administrative / Biographical History

The publishing house of Duckworth was founded in 1898 by Gerald de L'Etang Duckworth. In 1901 he was joined in partnership by George Harry Milsted. Thomas Balston became the third partner in 1923. Duckworth died in 1937, and in 1938 Mervyn Horder and Patrick Crichton Stuart bought interests in the firm and joined the Board of Directors. In 1950, George Milsted retired, and in 1955 Crichton Stuart moved on, leaving Mervyn Horder to become the Managing Director of the firm. By 1956 he had been joined by Charles Gifford as a director. Such figures as Jonathan Cape and Anthony Powell were amongst the publisher's distinguished staff. Early authors included Hilaire Belloc, D. H. Lawrence and Evelyn Waugh. The firm also published the Sitwells, the plays of John Galsworthy and novels by Elizabeth Goudge. In earlier years, the firm published a wide range of material, including novels and plays, but by the 1950s it was primarily publishing educational material. Series published by the firm include the "Great Lives" series and the "Hundred Years" series, which was aimed at university students and gave accounts of the developments in various fields during the preceding hundred years. There were also two theological series - "Studies in Theology" and the Colet Library - and the "Modern Health Series", originally edited by Mervyn Horder's father, Lord Horder.


The collection has been arranged according to the labelling from its original boxes. The series are as follows: MS959/1 General and Editorial Correspondence MS959/2 Literary and Authors Agents Correspondence MS959/3 Publishers Association Correspondence MS959/4 Publishers Correspondence MS959/5 Printers and Binders Correspondence MS959/6 Accounts MS959/7 Press Cuttings MS959/8 Orders and Despatch MS959/9 Miscellaneous

Access Information

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access is denied to the second deposit until cataloguing can take place. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Deposited as a gift in 1968-1969 through the offices of the British Records Association. A gift of an additional 30 boxes was made in August 1998.

Other Finding Aids

The earlier deposit is fully catalogued and available online, or in hard-copy in the Special Collections Reading Room. Work is continuing on box lists of the second deposit.

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

The British Library, London, holds correspondence between Gerald Duckworth and Albert Mansbridge, 1934 (Ref: Add Ms 65259).

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.